It was the night before the wedding and because they were staying in the same house but not the same room, Rodolfo had come to say good night. The door to her room was closed and beyond that the house was full of his family. Female family who did not approve of how his bride had been procured.
He kissed her and Starflower’s hands ran up his back under his jacket then hooked over his shoulders to hold him bent down to her. After much less time than he would have liked he reluctantly broke away from her. “I suspect my sisters have got me on a timer,” he said ruefully, putting his hand in a pocket, “And I actually have something I want to talk to you about tonight. Something private.” He pulled his hand out of his pocket and held it out to her.
Her collar lay across his palm. The one he had put around her neck after Bartolo had ceded her to him, with his fingers brushing her throat as he fitted it and did it up. The important one.
She looked at him questioningly.
“Wives don’t get collared. They’re not possessions. I can’t make you wear this anymore. I - suppose we should get rid of it. What do you want me to do?” It lay there across his hand; as broad as one of his fingers, soft as suede on its underside, the buckle and other metal fittings smoothed and finished so there were no near-invisible snags to catch on the skin, a walnut bond.
“It’s mine,” she put her hand over it as she spoke, “You can’t throw it away.” He went to talk but she forestalled him, “Some people have love letters or jewellery or photographs. This is my keepsake, my memory of finding out I was loved.” She stood up on her toes, her hand still on his, and kissed him on the lips. “Besides,” she said softly, so close that was all she needed for normal conversation, “I like the way I feel when you put it on and when you take it off. Could I keep it safe and we could use it sometimes when we’re alone and both feel like it?”
“I think we could.” He kissed her back and pressed the collar into her hand. He broke off, “They’ll be knocking on the door anytime now for some reason or other.” He sighed, looking around the cream-walled guestroom with its single-sized bed. “I wish I could stay here with you. It would be much more restful, even if I slept on the floor. Bartolo is still arguing about wearing the brocade waistcoat and a cravat – he’s not going to win,” he gave a wolfish grin, “This is the one time in our adult lives I get to tell him exactly what he’s going to do. Then some of our brothers and brothers-in-law want me to have a few drinks with them,” he shook his head, “They can’t seem to understand that I want my wits and my senses unmuzzled for tomorrow.” The two of them kissed again. “Perhaps I can get back to my room without any of them seeing me?” His eyes lit up, “Now that would be my idea of fun! I’d better get going.”
A final kiss and he did go, the door firmly closed behind him and her gazing after him, a smile on her face and the collar clutched to her chest.